From the Reverend James Madison
RC (LC: Madison Papers). Docketed by JM, “Madison Js. Revd Sept. 13. 1782.” Someone other than JM wrote “Chastellux” under this date. The Reverend James Madison plainly dated his letter 18, not 13, September.
Williamsburg September 18th. 82
The two last posts disappointed me. I had a Letter ready to acknowledge your Favours of the 13 & 14th. of last Month,2 which afforded us so much Consolation; but it would be as easy to calculate to the Time of an Eclipse, as to determine the Times of the Ingress & Egress of one of Clarkson’s Riders.3
I fear your Suspicions were too well founded.4 The favourite Prospect seems rather to retire from us here, than to approach. I hope your Ministers however have before this placed the Matter in it’s true point of View. It is true the Dolus in Horte5 ought ever to be before us, & guard us like a friendly Beacon against hidden & dangerous Designs. But, if the Independence of America be bona fide admitted, What can be the Obstacles to Peace. France as well as this Country will then have obtained the Object of their Contest, at least the avowed object,6 and will it not have a considerable Influence upon the Councils of the other European Powers, if it appears, that she does not rest satisfied with that Acquisition. As to the part which America ought to act, whether she be obliged to attend her Friend beyond the Mark first aimed at,7 or whether it be not as damnable in Politics as in Religion to desert the Source of our Salvation, I will not presume to determine.
We have nothing new here. The high price of every thing [(]except Provisions which are moderate eno) keeps to its old Standard. The Prospect of Peace has had no visible Effects here.
How many Introductions have you had handed to you by French Gentlemen?8 I hope you are well acquainted with Gen. Chattelleux. I think he is at Heart, as indeed every Philosopher must be, a thorough Republican. He told me he had some Thoughts of sketching out a Plan for the future Aggrandizement of Ama. Have you seen his Journey thro’ a Part of the Northern States, which he has published,9 he promised me a View of it, tho’ it has not yet come to Hand. Also his Great Work,10 if you have seen that, what is its Character.
I sent a Letter to Dr. Stiles, to your Care by a French Genn. pray have you seen that also?11
We had the other Day a fine Boy. he is born at a lucky Period. It will be hard indeed if Bellona be not driven from amongst us in less than 20 or 30 years.12
I am Yr’s most sincerly
Dr. McC13 left this Town about a Fortnight past, went to Hampton, to get a passage by Water for Phila. Wheth[er] he succeeded, I cannot tell. He means to visit that Place as soon as possible.
1. For JM’s commission as colonel of militia of Orange County, Va., see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , I, 163; 164, n. 1.
3. From 3 February 1775 until his death about 12 April 1779, John Clarkson’s uncle, Alexander Purdie, had published a Virginia Gazette description begins Virginia Gazette, or, the American Advertiser (Richmond, James Hayes, 1781–86). description ends at Williamsburg. Clarkson moved there from Richmond, succeeded Purdie as postmaster, and with Augustine Davis formed a partnership which continued to issue the newspaper until 9 December 1780. See Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 159, n. 1. Clarkson employed postriders to connect Williamsburg with the main route for mail at Fredericksburg and Richmond. See The Ledger of Doctor Benjamin Franklin, Postmaster General, 1776. A Facsimile of the Original Manuscript now on File in the Office of the Auditor of the Treasury for the Post Office Department of the United States (Washington, 1865), pp. 29, 30.
4. In his missing letter of 13 or 14, or more likely 13–14, August, JM may have repeated in substance the following from his letter of 13 August to Randolph (q.v.): “It appears to me much more clear that the [British] Ministry really mean to subscribe to our independence, than that they have renouncd the hope of seducing us from the French connection.”
5. The “guile in the garden” is seemingly an allusion to the serpent in the Garden of Eden and hence warns against “hidden & dangerous Designs” by Great Britain or France.
6. That is, as stated in Article II of the Treaty of Alliance of 6 February 1778 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (34 vols.; Washington, 1904–37). description ends , XI, 449).
7. See Comments on Instructions to Peace Commissioners, 8 August 1782, and ed. n., and n. 4.
9. Chastellux published anonymously in 1781 at Newport, R.I., the now extremely rare Voyage de Newport à Philadelphie, Albany, &c. He incorporated this work as the first volume of his Voyages de M. le Marquis de Chastellux dans l’Amérique Septentrionale dans les années 1780, 1781 & 1782 (2 vols.; Paris, 1786).
10. De la félicité publique, ou, Considérations sur le sort des hommes dans les différentes époques de l’histoire (2 vols.; Amsterdam, 1772). In 1783 Chastellux presented an “elegant edition” of this work to the College of William and Mary (William and Mary Quarterly, 1st ser., XVI [1907–8], 78).
11. For Ezra Stiles, president of Yale College, see Papers of Madison description begins William T. Hutchinson, William M. E. Rachal, et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (5 vols. to date; Chicago, 1962——). description ends , II, 56, n. 10; IV, 338; 339, n. 15. Neither the date of the “Letter to Dr. Stiles” nor the identity of the “French Genn” is known to the editors. JM’s acknowledgment of the present letter has not been found. See the Reverend James Madison to JM, 3 October 1782. Stiles, who was away from New Haven between 16 September and 7 November 1782, did not note in his diary that he received the letter from the Reverend James Madison or wrote to him (Franklin Bowditch Dexter, ed., The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles [3 vols.; New York, 1901], III, pp. 43–45).
12. James Catesby Madison (1782–ca. 1844) became the proprietor of Long Meadow, a farm southwest of Fincastle, in that portion of Botetourt County which was organized in 1838 as Roanoke County. In 1837 he was so heavily in debt that he necessarily disposed of all his real estate there for the benefit of his creditors (Personal-Property Tax Books, Roanoke County, 1844–45, MSS in Virginia State Library; Land-Tax Books, Botetourt County, 1814–1837; Botetourt County Court Records, Deed Book 22, pp. 289–91, 297–99, 339–40, 341–42, microfilm in Virginia State Library).
Although “lucky Period” may reflect the Reverend James Madison’s interest in science and his conclusion derived from his son’s horoscope at birth, his optimism probably was derived from his faith in the impending cessation of hostilities in America. Thirty years after the present letter was written would be the year of the Reverend James Madison’s death, and of the beginning of the War of 1812 during the presidency of JM. James C. Madison seems not to have been a veteran of that or any other armed conflict.